“Never To Own Anything That Is Not Ours”

Never to own anything that is not ours? A Confusian analect, Marxist’s dialectic or Nietzsche’s geneaology of morals? No, it’s from the mouth of a poor, malnourished Filipino boy, with barely nothing to put into his mouth but turned in a bag with P18,000.
Yes, I stumbled upon this old news and made me  ponder upon this simple question: ” If a poor, malnourished boy can be honest, why can’t our moneyed presidents be honest?”. This led me to one of the first lessons we learned early in life at home and in school : “Honesty is the best policy”. This is very elementary, indeed. Our president  has gone beyond elementary schooling, she went on to higher education, got her doctorate in economics and she even went abroad for further studies. But it seems that all these things did not do her good for as a president she has forgotten the best policy- that of honesty. Too much education but lacking in honesty is I think as good as nothing. For me it is clear: Not Arroyo but a boy like him is the hope of our nation. Here’s the story:

Boy turns in bag with P18,000

Filipino values still practiced by simple Filipinos.
By Eva Visperas
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

“DAGUPAN CITY – Eleven-year-old Gicoven Abarquez spends his free time gathering plastic bottles around this city’s downtown area to help augment his family’s meager income.

But despite the family’s need for money, the boy never thought of keeping the bag containing around P18,000 which he found while looking for plastic bottles one day.

Abarquez, a grade four pupil at the East Central Elementary School here, was recently honored by the Dagupan City Police for his admirable honesty.

The boy was described by city police chief Superintendent Dionicio Borromeo as “malnourished, and who looks like a five-year-old because of his small body frame.”

It was last Sept. 21 when Abarquez, nicknamed Gangga, picked up the pouch bag along Perez Blvd.

“What was very impressive about this boy was that he never thought of owning the ‘manna,’ but immediately decided to turn it over to the police,” Borromeo told The STAR.

“It’s really heartwarming because he has high trust in the police,” he added.

Abarquez, the youngest of four children of Maria, a helper in a bagoong factory, and Benito, a construction worker, said his parents would get mad at him if he would take the money which does not belong to him.

“My mother taught us never to own anything that is not ours,” Abarquez told Borromeo.  

“If you see a Filipino like him, you will say, ‘There’s still hope in the Philippines after all’,” Borromeo said.

The awarding was delayed and held the other day because Borromeo wanted to add significance to the occasion by holding the ceremony this October in commemoration of Children’s Month.

Details about the money found by Abarquez have not been totally divulged because fake claimants have been going to the police station.

But Abarquez said he would be able to recognize the man who lost the bag as he saw him board a jeepney when the pouch he was carrying fell. The jeepney immediately sped off so Abarquez was not able to call the man’s attention, and brought the money to the police.

The police have given the true claimant 60 days, starting last Monday, to show up at their station. If the owner fails to come forward, the police, upon deliberation, have decided that the money will be given as a reward to the Abarquez family.

The local police also plans to make Abarquez the beneficiary of their Kinabukasan Mo, Sagot Ko scholarship project.

Borromeo said they will give school supplies to Abarquez including a school bag, notebooks, paper, ballpens, shoes and school uniforms. Abarquez, they learned, has never owned a pair of shoes.

The Kiwanis Club of Dagupeña likewise pledged to give Abarquez some of the books that he needs for school.”


So far, so good as we used to say. This happened last year and I just wondering if the boy ever received the promised rewards by the police and the Kiwanis Club. And what happened to that P18,000? It’s just normal to wonder or entertain some doubts in a place where the authorities say one thing but do another thing, the problem of sincerity in our nation.

What’s wrong with being basic? Some people pretending to know everything already and who think they’re already far enough, are usually the same people who commit the most silly mistakes in life. The reason is that they ignored the very basic (simple) truths in life. You can claim to be very sophisticated in your thinking, to be on another level than the rest around you. But don’t you know that  simple things are most complex and difficult to follow? To live a simple life, for instance, is hard, when you mean by simple living avoiding the complexities, etc. of civilization and retreating to the countryside. For then you have to gather your firewoods, fetch your water from a well, wash your clothings by hands, feed your animals, etc. It’s hard work everyday! The same thing with basic teaching like “Be honest”. Simple as it is, but all of us have trouble with this and have failed. But worse,  all our presidents have failed. Who would believe for instance Arroyo’s SONA 2008? As Aesop has noted,” A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth”.

According to John Ruskin, the beginning of education is to make your children capable of honesty. Our honest boy Gangga, though poor shows more education than the last five presidents of our republic which includes the sitting Arroyo. This poor boy speaks the language of honesty, not of greed. He surely learned this language from his parents, unlike our presidents who seemed to have patterned their concept of honesty not from their parents but from the practical definition of what a president now means in our nation: Greed as Measure of All, in short, GMA. Again, Marcos was the founder of this New School Of Greed, and was the mentor of the next generations of successful republic plunderers. The logic of Greed, however, doesn’t know what a genuine human feeling and loyalty is about. So they help one another to dethrone the incumbent Greed Holder only to replace him with their own version of Greed.

We know that Marcos did not bother about Jueting business, for instance, as Estrada did. Instead he concentrated on gold bars by shipping them all to Switzerland, hidden in a certain corner in Zürich a few kilometers from where I am writing this post. Indeed each of them has his/her own field of specialty, Marcos the miner with his fields of gold, Estrada the gambler with his gambling arenas and Arroyo the rice and fertilizer dealer with her rice fields. One of his outstanding students was undoubtedly Mr. Estrada, a man without formal education but graduated summa cum laude from this New School Of Greed. According to governor Singson at that time ( who was one of Estradas Jueting’s payoffs collectors), Estrada was receiving P32 to 35 million a month in Jueteng collections alone. With these high standards of earning set by these presidents, it is not surprising that Filipinos aspiring for presidency have in their subconscious also the dream of getting super rich- exactly  like their mentors. Even the sitting president graduated with honors from this school and is on the way to realizing this dream to the fullest. But she displayed a good portion of her education and loyalty by pardoning her ex-Boss Estrada, pardoning his plunder! This is the logic of greed in action, a logic too complex for our boy to comprehend. Truly, Professor Marcos was very successful in this respect. He taught his students this logic and helped them realize this Philippine Dream.

Going back to Erap, getting cuts from foreign loans or from big government contracts were too complicated for the mind of  this former small-town mayor, unlike Marcos who, being a criminal lawyer was familiar with legal technicalities. The bigger the mind, the more complex is the arena of deception. The small-minded Erap continued therefore with his Jueting, an expertise he knew so well during his mayor days. We are all familiar with the mechanics of town politics: The mayor appoints on day one his/her chief of police, if possible a relative. Utang na loob (debt of gratitude) pressures this chief of police to protect the personal interests of the mayor, mostly his/her illegal activities like Jueting, thereby reducing the whole town police corps to mere bodyguards or private goons of the mayor. We hope that Bulan was and is an exception to the rule! Anyway, this mechanics was continued by Erap as president viewing the entire PNP as his personal bodyguards. Now, we also hope Arroyo is an exception to this rule! I stand to be corrected here.

To continue, do you really believe this boy was too weak to tell a lie or to carry home that bag since home was much farther than the next police station? Well, I think not. Don’t be surprised if I would tell you now that we have more honest young people in Manila than Zürich! This keeps me optimistic about our chance for a better Malacañang or Philippines. This is the reason why: The second good news from home I read published in the local Zürich newspapers, now reproduced in English hereunder:


 Reader’s Digest’s Global Honesty Test

Are people honest?
Reader’s Digest conducts global cell phone honesty test: Researchers ‘lose’ mobile phones in 32 cities, and two thirds are returned
By Reader’s Digest Association
Jul 23, 2007 – 6:02:20 PM

If you were sitting on a park bench and noticed that a “lost” cell phone was ringing, would you answer it? And if so, and a stranger’s voice on the other end asked you to take time from your busy day to return the phone, what would you do? Hang up? Keep the phone? Or, agree to return it?
That’s exactly what Reader’s Digest editors wanted to find out. And so the world’s most widely read magazine used its network of global editions to conduct an informal test of honesty around the world, asking reporters in the most populous cities in 32 countries to leave 960 mid-priced mobile phones in busy public places.
Local researchers from each country arranged and conducted their own tests, observing the mobiles from a distance. They rang the phones and waited to see if anyone would answer, and then watched to see if the person would (1) agree to return it, (2) call later on preset numbers that were programmed into the handsets, or (3) keep the phones for themselves. After all, these were tempting, brand-new phones with usable airtime.
The researchers tallied the results, interviewed test participants, and filed their reports in many of the August editions of Reader’s Digest, including the Web edition of U.S. Reader’s Digest (www.rd.com) and U.S. Selecciones magazine. While the study was not scientific, the results provided a fascinating human interest story.
“What we found out surprised and intrigued us,” said Conrad Kiechel, Editorial Director, International. “In every single city where the test was conducted, at minimum almost half of the phones were returned. And despite the temptation that people must have felt to keep the phones, and the fact that the test imposed on everyone’s time, the average return rate was a remarkable 68 percent, or about two thirds of the 30 phones we dropped in each city.”
The test followed last year’s Reader’s Digest Global Courtesy Test, which made headlines worldwide. Like the 2006 test, it was developed and overseen by the magazine editors in each of the participating countries. Both programs dramatically illustrated the magazine’s remarkable geographic “footprint” by conducting simultaneous local tests and reporting the results globally.
The highest percentage of returned phones was in the smallest city, Ljubljana, Slovenia, with a population of only 267,000. All but one of 30 cell phones were returned. From a nun at a bus stop to a young waiter at a coffee shop (who also retrieved a leather jacket the reporter had accidentally left behind – not part of the test!), the residents in this picture-postcard city in the foothills of the Alps were almost universally helpful.
Could the citizens of a major metropolis, with all its stress and pressure, be as honest? The people of Toronto, Canada (population 5.4 million), came close, returning 28 of 30 phones. “If you can help somebody out, why not?” said Ryan Demchuk, a 29-year-old insurance broker, who returned the mobile.
Seoul, South Korea, was third in the rankings, followed by Stockholm, Sweden, where Lotta Mossige-Norheim, a railway ticket inspector, found the mobile on a shopping street and handed it back. “I’m always calling people who’ve left a handset on my train,” she said.
Tied for fifth place in the rankings with 24 returned phones were: Mumbai, India; Manila, the Philippines; and New York City.
In many countries, people said they believed the young would behave worse than their elders. Yet, in the test results, young people were just as honest. In New York’s Harlem section, 16-year-old Johnnie Sparrow arranged to meet a reporter later that evening. Arriving at the scheduled time flanked by a group of younger neighborhood boys who clearly looked up to him, Sparrow was surprised to learn that the lost phone wasn’t lost at all. But he was proud of how he reacted when he found it.
“I did the right thing,” he said with a smile.
Parental influence weighed heavily with some. “My parents taught me that if something is not yours, don’t take it,” said Muhammad Faizal Bin Hassan, an employee of a Singapore shopping complex, where he answered a ringing phone.
Many adults accompanied by children were keen to show the young people how to behave when they spotted a phone. In Hounslow, West London, Mohammad Yusuf Mahmoud, 33, was with his two young daughters when he answered a phone in a busy shopping street. “I’m glad that my kids are here to see this. I hope it sets a good example,” he said.
Women were slightly more likely to return phones than were men.
All over the world, the most common reason people gave for returning a phone was that they too had once lost an item of value and didn’t want others to suffer as they had. “I’ve had cars stolen three times and even the laundry from the cellar was taken,” said Kristiina, 51, who returned a phone in Helsinki.
So, how did planet earth perform in the honesty test? Everywhere, the locally based Reader’s Digest reporters heard pessimism about the chances of getting phones back, especially given economic and other pressures. And yet, globally, 654 mobiles, or 68 percent, were returned.


The Phones we got back, city by city
Rank City Country Phones Recovered (out of 30)
1 Ljubljana Slovenia 29
2 Toronto Canada 28
3 Seoul South Korea 27
4 Stockholm Sweden 26
5= Mumbai India 24
  Manila Philippines 24
  New York USA 24
8= Helsinki Finland 23
  Budapest Hungary 23
  Warsaw Poland 23
  Prague Czech Republic 23
  Auckland New Zealand 23
  Zagreb Croatia 23
14= Sao Paulo Brazil 21
  Paris France 21
  Berlin Germany 21
  Bangkok Thailand 21
18= Milan Italy 20
  Mexico City Mexico 20
  Zurich Switzerland 20
21= Sydney Australia 19
  London UK 19
23 Madrid Spain 18
24 Moscow Russia 17
25= Singapore Singapore 16
  Buenos Aires Argentina 16
  Taipei Taiwan 16
28 Lisbon Portugal 15
29= Amsterdam Holland 14
  Bucharest Romania 14
31= Hong Kong Hong Kong 13
  Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 13


 Manila was 5th worldwide, and among asian cities tested, Manila placed 2nd after Seoul. This is something to be proud of, a ray of hope for Manila. How about Bulan’s Honesty Index? We have no solid facts in our hands to base our argument. Perhaps we need to device and conduct also such a test. How about our local government, our local chief executive? How do you rate her SOBA 2007- or,  State Of Bulan Address 2007? Public Trust And Credibilty is a public definition and perception, not a self-definition or self-rating by the mayor herself. Therefore it is legal and correct that people discourse about it publicly. It’s a needed feedback.

Mayor Helen De Castro reports herself, and I qoute, “ Public Office is a Public Trust”. Sayo baga tabi ini na padomdom sa entero na mga Opisyal san Gobierno, na an poder, autoridad nan capacidad na inhatag sa kaniya sayo na de-kumpiansa na trabaho. Permi ko tabi in-iisip na sa pagiging Mayor ko, nasa kamot nan liderato ko an kaayadan o pagroro san bungto ta, nan sa paagi san amo Administrasyon, makabalangkas kami sin mga plano, programa nan mga proyekto na para sa kaayadan san kadaghanan na mga ciudadano. Importante man na makuwa mi lugod tabi an kooperasyon, partisipasyon nan pagdanon san mga miembros san Komunidad Bulanenyo.
Ini na paghatod ko sa iyo sin Report saro na paagi basi maaraman tabi niyo kun nano na an mga inhimo namo, segun sa tiwala niyo sa amo. Parte ini san pangako mi na accountability nan transparency, na dire kamo nai-ignorar san mga programa san Gobierno Lokal.”

She says openly that she needs your participation and constructive assessment of her performance after you had entrusted her this office. So why not avail of this offer from Mayor Helen De Castro herself? Indeed, we should never own anything that is not ours- aside from things that legally belong to us, like our own opinion. Therefore, be proud of your opinions and voice them out. Our mayor needs them.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer